Is it illegal to discriminate against illegal aliens?

Is it actually illegal to discriminate against an illegal alien? It can’t be illegal to discriminate in employement since it’s illegal to employ an illegal alien anyway, but what about accommodation? Could a landlord refuse to rent to someone if s/he thinks they’re an illegal alien? Could a store/restaurant refuse service? Could a bank refuse to open an account?

A lot of people seem to have the idea that it is illegal to discriminate against anyone, when the fact is that it is illegal to discriminate against people who are members of “a protected class”.

A protected class is:
A class or group characteristic, which may not be used as the sole reason for an employment or academic decision unless it constitutes a bona-fide occupational qualification. State and federal anti-discrimination laws currently identify the following protected groups: race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, including marital status, age, disability and veteran status.

As illegal alien status, or undocumented worker, if you prefer, is not listed, and it is therefore not illegal to discriminate against illegal aliens.

A landlord can refuse to rent to pretty much anyone, providing the reason is not covered by a “protected class” status (see Bill Door’s post).The city of Hazelton, PA, carried this one step further in 2006 by passing its “Illegal Immigration Relief Act” making it illegal for Hazelton landlords to rent to improperly-documented aliens; in July 2007 the ordinance was struck down by a federal judge as being unconstitutional. The case is currently under appeal.

In the US, a bank will need to see a taxpayer ID card in order to open an account; this is so it can report certain transactions (e.g. deposits of more than $10,000) to the IRS if the case arises. Usually the Social Security card – which illegal aliens cannot legally obtain – is used; however, there also exists an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number which the IRS can issue without regard to immigration status. The IRS-issued ITIN card may legally be used to open a US bank account, although the resulting paper trail may shine an unwanted spotlight on the individual. If the bank officer opening the account believes that the presented card is a forgery or stolen, he/she can of course refuse to open the account and may also alert the authorities.

Here in Minnesota, most of the illegal aliens are Mexican (hispanic). So they could arguably fall under either the “race” or “national origin” categories of the law.

This means you could get in trouble if someone proved that you were renting to illegal Somalis or Guatamalans, but not Mexicans or Hispanics, specifically. As long as you can show that you’re seeking similar proof of legality from all residents, you should be fine.

There was a story tonight on the local Orlando news about a woman who had applied to a job and the employer asked “are you married, do you have any kids?”. When she said no to married, and yes to kids, the interviewer said “ok no thanks”. I think they said it wasn’t illegal to ask these questions…maybe it’s illegal to make you answer them?

The US Constitution addresses some rights to all persons as opposed to just citizens in other cases. It stands to reason that one’s illegal alien status does not supercede their status as a person and thus, protects them in certain cases.

It’s an attempt to discriminate based on marital status and having kids (within or without marriage). I believe the asking of either question, directly or implied would get that potential employer in hot water.

Based on a discussion just a handful of years back on the now-defunct Bankers’ Forums I used to frequent, some banks have begun accepting the word of the Mexican government as proper ID.
Some other banks think the banks that do that are completely insane.

Cites and references:

Marital status is not a federally protected class, although it often is a protected class at the state level. Parenthood is not a protected federal class and I am not aware of any states that specifically protect parental status.

First of all, let’s clean up some terminology.

Illegal here would mean “against the law.” Specifically, in violation of some statute or regulation, either federal or state (or conceivably local; Santa Cruz, CA, makes it illegal to discriminate in employment on the basis of what you look like, for example). So, the simple answer to the OP would be that there are no federal laws that protect “illegal aliens” from discrimination in employment, housing, etc. As to state law, you’d have to look at each of the 50 states for an answer.

“Protected class,” on the other hand, is a buzzword usually used when discussing the constitutionality of “state action” (i.e., governmental actions by the federal or state governments, or their political subdivisions, like school districts). A protected class will be provided with greater protection against adverse state actions. But you and I, private citizens, can discriminate against a member of a “protected class” with impunity, as long as we are not violating a federal or state law, since the Constitution doesn’t govern our actions. Thus, in the absence of a law precluding it, I could refuse to rent a room to a family of people not legally present in the United States.

The federal government, and most state governments, make it illegal to employ people who are not legally employable; this includes those in the country without permission. So, clearly, it is not “illegal” to discriminate against someone who is an “illegal alien” in all cases. Specific examples are, of course, dependent upon the facts and the jurisdiction involved.

But there are a couple of real big “if’s” there.

“private citizens” – but the OP asked about landlord, store, restaurant – most of them are corporations rather than individuals, and licensed to do business. Which often makes them subject to more stringent requirements than a private individual.

“not violating a federal or state law” – many US states do have their own state laws that cover such discrimination, and generally they use some version of that ‘protected class’ list (sometimes with additions). For example, here we have a “Fair Housing” law that covers nearly all landlords, even private individuals. There is an exemption for them if they are renting space on the same property where they live – the other side of a duplex, for example. But most rental property is covered.

First of all, you will note that I particularly pointed out that the OP had to look to state statutes to have an adequate answer to the question posed. Not sure why you think I didn’t mean exactly what you have said.

As for corporations, while there may be more state laws applicable to them than to private individuals, the point is that corporations, under constitutional law, are not state actors, either. So they have no different treatment under constitutional law.

Not sure why you feel it is important to make these clarifications. My post was simply an attempt to make certain that the original poster, and the readers, did not conflate the constitutional issues with the statutorial issues, as a result of the loose use of terminology by Bill Door. :slight_smile: